Baltimore police, prosecutors and federal agents launched a massive strike against the Black Guerrilla Family gang Thursday, after indicting 48 suspects in an alleged eight-year campaign of drug dealing and violence that claimed 10 lives.
The breadth of the coordinated operation reflects a growing concern over the gang’s role on the streets of Baltimore. Authorities say the one-time prison gang is using force and intimidation to take control of neighborhoods drug corner by drug corner — one reason, they say, violent crime is on the rise.
Word of the indictments came as the city recorded its 200th homicide of the year. Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said the gang case shows how police and prosecutors are increasing pressure on violent offenders. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted in the investigation.
“We’ve got to cut the heart out of these gangs, and we can’t do it with small arrests,” Batts said at a news conference. “We’re going to start taking the vicious, most violent people down one at a time. That’s where you’ll see the [crime] numbers start coming down.”
Thirty-eight of those accused face charges under the state’s rarely used gang statute, which carries a 20-year maximum sentence and has been applied only three times in Baltimore. State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein said he hopes to use the gang law to try all suspects together and show a “full mosaic” of “terror.”
Bernstein said the crew was involved in a campaign to avenge the killing or shooting of any gang members. Witnesses thought to be talking to police were silenced. A man who opened a drug rehabilitation center near the gang’s drug-dealing corners was met with bullets. Even fellow gang members were shot for internal code violations, Bernstein said.
The gang figured prominently this year in a corruption scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center, where 13 corrections officers have been charged in federal court with helping smuggle contraband into the facility and turning it into a gang “stronghold.”